September 18, 2015

Catholic Evangelization Outreach / Patrick Hofer

The Sacred Heart of Jesus and World Youth Day

(Editor’s note: Next August, the archdiocesan Office of Young Adult and College Campus Ministry (YACCM) will be spending a week in Krakow, Poland, with Pope Francis and 3 million young Catholics at World Youth Day 2016. In preparation for the pilgrimage, YACCM staff members are sharing a reflection by Patrick Hofer, a young adult who traveled with the group to World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.)

Regardless of who we are and what our path looks like, our vocation on Earth is primarily to love in the way Jesus modeled. This sense of love is so fundamental to our journey in life, I decided to relate my experiences of World Youth Day to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as to better appreciate how I saw Christ present there in Rio.

First, Christ’s heart is pierced and bleeding, representing his suffering for our salvation. World Youth Day was a pilgrimage, not a vacation. Any misconceived notions that it was a vacation were sorted out on the first night, in which I believe there was suffering for the sake of bringing us closer to God.

Several complications with housing, getting our World Youth Day materials, the group being separated and no one knowing the language all ensued, and spiritual desolation plagued me along with anxieties that followed me to Brazil. By the end of the first day, I was broken and worn down.

Second, Jesus’ heart is exposed and appears outside of his chest as a reminder that his heart is not locked away, but is vulnerable and present to us. For me, the second morning was the most beautiful day of the pilgrimage. I woke up as broken as when I fell asleep, but we gathered round early that morning and tried to discuss how we saw God our first day to liven our spirits.

Unconvinced that I had seen God, I left to seek him in the adoration chapel. That moment was the first of many at World Youth Day that I really felt the presence of Jesus with us on our pilgrimage. God not only allowed us to be broken, he desired us to be.

I now know that God needed us to be free from our conscious and subconscious whims, attachments and expectations, so that he could try to refill us with only the desire for him. There were so many small, normally unnoteworthy occurrences that we found abundant joy in because they were times God’s presence was exposed to us.

Finally, Jesus’ Sacred Heart is depicted with a flame encompassing it, signifying the passionate love and desire for our souls. This was most apparent to me through the unbridled excitement of the millions present, and a resulting certainty that the future of the Church is very bright. It was at the closing Mass with Pope Francis when I really understood just how many people had joined us in Rio De Janeiro; it was amazing!

Often times, my view of the Church can be limited to what I perceive in my local parish. But when I saw the millions gathered for Mass on a beach and realized how misguided I was in my limited perception, my heart was elated.

The theme of World Youth Day was “Go and Make Disciples of All Nations.” After the closing Mass, my spirit was renewed and my heart was aflame, ready to return home and answer this call to make the difference I could, as I knew my 3 million brothers and sisters were inspired to do as well.

(Patrick Hofer works as an actuary and is a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis. Registration for World Youth Day 2016 is open until Oct. 15. YACCM will be taking 45 young adults from around the archdiocese, and spots are still available. For more information and to register, go to

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!